Most coaches would agree that their athletes can be categorized into two distinct groups: those that love to train and those that despise it. The former rarely require much motivation to get after it in the weight room or on the field, whereas it can be like pulling teeth with the latter to get them to complete a full workout. No source of extrinsic motivation can beat intrinsic motivation when it comes to putting the work in. It may motivate athletes to train harder and set bigger training goals if they knew that the physical qualities that they possess throughout the ages of 16 – 19 years old may increase their chances of playing professionally in the future.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport looked at the relationships between physical qualities of U-17, U-18 and U-17 players and career attainment. This was a retrospective study where 81 academy rugby league players between the years of 2007 – 2012 were tested for height, weight, skinfolds, speed, momentum, vertical jump, Yo-Yo (intermittent running capacity) and 1RM’s for bench press, squat and prone row. These values were compared to career attainment level by 2014.
The results showed that professional rugby players tended to be significantly taller and had stronger 1RM squats in the U-17 group, greater 1RM bench press in the U-18 group and greater prone row in the U-19 group. Grouped together longitudinally, the main physical quality that pro rugby players had when they were younger was a greater 1RM back squat. Increases in body mass and momentum over time were also significantly greater in pro’s than in academy players.
The authors conclude that greater absolute strength and height appear to be contributors to becoming a professional Rugby league player. There’s not much an athlete can do about their height, but training is largely under their control. This clearly demonstrates the importance of the development of maximal strength for collision sports like rugby.
Till, K, et al. Do physical qualities influence the attainment of professional status within elite 16–19 year old rugby league players? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Ahead of Print.